Chickenlady!

I am admitting to a guilty secret. I am obsessed with chickens! It used to be the real thing when I had more time and didn’t have foxes living at the bottom of my garden. Now I no longer keep chickens, or rather I do – my house is full of them and I even have them in my office at work. However, none of them has a pulse.

dresser
I have a dresser full of them in the lounge, two chicken clocks, chicken garden ornaments, chicken mugs and biscuit tins, chicken plates…you get the idea. I don’t know what it is about them exactly. I think they connect with my idea of a more simple life – growing my own food with a few hens in the garden.

My work chickens. They have been kidnapped and held to ransom but made it back to me!

My work chickens. They have been kidnapped and held to ransom but made it back to me!

imageI will go back to keeping chickens, but in the meantime I will make do with my ornamental ones.

I have had a productive morning, cleaning and organising the house and sorting out some things for DD1 to sell at her boot sale tomorrow. Let’s hope the weather holds so that she gets lots of customers.

The garden is calling though. We were given lots of free wildflower seeds at the Chelsea Flower Show, so I want to clear the wild area – which is just a bit too wild – and make it into a large bed of fabulous wildflowers for the summer. I also have lots of veg to pot on and plant. Mr S keeps turning up with more plants that people have given him!

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Strange weather today – very heavy rain punctuated by strong sunshine. Still, we got to see this:

imageI have been doing a deep clean today. All of the decorating and gardening and general busy-ness hasn’t left much time for cleaning so the place was a bit grubby. I still have a bit to do in the morning, but it is looking so much nicer it is worth the effort.

making meatloafMeatloaf turned out to be a very easy dinner as it just involved throwing all of the ingredients in a bowl, mixing them together and putting them in the oven in a loaf tin. It was tasty too with some creamy mashed spuds and broccoli. I would put more herbs and spices in if I made it again. I actually doubled up and made two, one for the freezer. The recipe suggests it feeds 6, but I would say only if you have a very small appetite. It made plenty for 4 however.

meatloaf

It is here if you want to try it:

 http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/6772/mum-s-meatloaf.aspx?o_is=Hub_TopRecipe_1

 

Not Enough Hours in the Day!

I thought I would attempt a blog post this morning whilst the rest of the house is still asleep. It is quite nice in a way being up early on a sunny Sunday morning. The birds are singing loudly and the cats are bouncing about but other than that the world is quiet and there is no traffic.

I have struggled to find a spare few minutes to blog. Work was full on during Friday, I came home to do a large pile of ironing and I spent yesterday back in the hall painting. As for housework, who has the time? I have been doing a bit here and there, but only the bare essentials – the laundry and sorting food.

imageToday the garden beckons. There are some plants in the greenhouse that really need to go in the ground now but before that I need to do some weeding to prepare some space. Some of my neighbours trees need a good hack back too or they will starve my side of light. There are lots of seedlings that need potting on too. At least I enjoy this, especially on a beautiful day .

Before that I will get up and clean the bathroom and downstairs loo and wash the kitchen floor. I can’t let standards slip too low!

Is it just me? Does anyone else struggle to fit it all in?

 

Sometimes you just need a break

We had intended to continue with the decorating yesterday but neither of us could face another day of it. The house was covered with dust and grime, there was laundry everywhere that I couldn’t get outside to dry because of the wet weather and the general cleaning hadn’t been done either. We decided to start afresh next weekend.

Instead I spent the morning giving the place a quick going over and organising myself for the coming week. I feel so much better when I am in control and on top of things!

We took a drive to Brightlingsea in the afternoon and had a walk. It was very windy and certainly blew the cobwebs and decorating dust away. Sometimes the simplest things can make a difference and we felt much better for some fresh air and a change of scenery.

I have bought very little of anything

Getting blown away in Brightlingsea!

Getting blown away in Brightlingsea!

this month, although I have spent quite a lot of money on paint! About £100 I reckon but that’s not much to spend to decorate a room. I am currently saving my pennies towards a carpet to complete the job.

If you have any advice on the best place to get a bargain throw it my way :-).

If I could loosen the purse strings …

loosen the purse strings

The dream….

I was wandering  idly around Blogland with a cup of tea yesterday morning, girding my loins for the next bout of DIY. I very much enjoy doing this when I get the time, particularly looking at those with a money saving or frugal slant. There are a couple of well known bloggers who have good incomes now. You might think they no longer need to live such a careful and frugal lifestyle and would loosen the purse strings. However, they continue to live frugally because they still have specific goals they want to achieve. I have a feeling they would still do it as a lifestyle choice, even when they have achieved their financial targets.

Living the frugal life

We live a frugal life because we have to. If we didn’t we wouldn’t make our mortgage payments each month and could easily rack up huge credit card debts. When it is all going well and we manage a bit of extra income, or don’t get a large unexpected bill because the car engine explodes or we need an emergency plumber, we quite enjoy the challenge. It feels like a pretty productive and useful hobby! However, I don’t enjoy sailing so close to the wind most of the time. I know it wouldn’t take much for me feel I am drowning rather than staying afloat.

It did make me consider what I would do if I got to the point where I had paid the mortgage, got a different job that paid lots more, came into some money…would I still be as frugal? Would I loosen the purse strings or shop in Aldi if I could suddenly afford Waitrose? If I could choose, would I still buy all my clothes at bootsales? Would I spend a week decorating my hallway or get the decorators in?

I think the answer is that we would do a bit of both. I am naturally frugal and I can’t bear waste of any kind, because that was the way I was raised. However, I would love more quality time with Mr Shoestring and my daughters, so if I could afford the decorators I would happily pay for their skills! We would have more holidays as we both love travelling, I would buy a camper van (which has been my dream forever) and have lots of trips around the UK and Europe. Boot sales would still be my thing, but I would buy some decent quality new clothes as and when I needed them. I would continue to do my food shop with a list and might just pop into Waitrose after I had been to Aldi :).

What about you? If the mortgage and debts were paid off and you had a decent amount coming in, what would you do?

The DIY continues

Just to prove I have managed to do something this week, even if we aren’t quite finished and will have to come back to it next week, here is how the hallway is currently looking.

loosen the purse strings

Before…

loosen the purse strings

…now

loosen the purse strings

Before…

loosen the purse strings

…now!

Are we there yet?

Four days of decorating the hall and we are only about half way through! There is so much woodwork to repair, rub down, scrub and paint. Eight doors and doorframes, the bannisters, window sills and skirtings, plus walls to fill, wallpaper to hang walls and ceilings to emulsion. I am getting very tired but it is looking better already, so I know it will be worth it in the end.

imageI don’t need the gym anyway as I am sure I am burning lots of calories. The house is a complete tip, but it will have to remain so until we have finished and I can restore a bit of order.

imageTonight’s tea was a £1 Aldi pizza, jazzed up with some peppers, olives and cheese and served with a bag of salad leaves. I can’t be doing with cooking at the moment!

Back to it. I will post some pix if it ever gets finished. 🙂

Manual Labour

I had no time for a blog post yesterday – the decorating has started!!

I knew the hallway was going to be a pain to redecorate. What it really needs is replastering, not just sprucing up, but the budget won’t run to that. I spent a lot of the day repairing the walls – filling in holes and patching up the wallpaper. We daren’t strip the old stuff off as it may be all that is holding the plaster together in places….Mr S did a very impressive repair of the artex on the ceiling. I wish we could get rid of that as well but for now it will be painted so it will look fresh and clean.

The bannister was a bit of a job and took ages to rub down and wash, but at least I did manage to put a coat of quick dry gloss on and it looks so much better. White instead of aged yellow! The kitten likes to jump up and down on it and wind herself in and out, so I had to shut her away in the end.

Mr S is coming over to help again today. Because I know we will both be starving by tea time and won’t want to cook, I have made a slow cooker creation – Bacon, barley and leek stew. If it is a successful invention I will post the recipe.

barley bacon leek stewBack to it!

Pauper’s Paradise

 

Shoestring Cottage

Shoestring Cottage

We don’t live in a fancy house; we aren’t situated in a particularly sought after area. Shoestring Cottage is actually a 1940’s ex local authority semi in Essex. However, as was often the case at the time, the houses were built solidly on lovely big plots.  Ours is the corner plot and looks out over a green. We have the scout hut behind us and a row of pensioners’ bungalows to one side, so it is quiet and almost all of the neighbours are polite and friendly.

imageI love our house, but even more I love our garden. In the summer it is so much work and, after three years, we are only just getting it as we want it. We don’t have a lot of money to spend, but we do have lots of enthusiasm! We often don’t know the best thing to do, but take advice from family and friends and we are learning as we go along.

imageAs we have an extra long weekend for the May bank holiday, this gave us a chance to catch up on the gardening yesterday, and also meant we didn’t go out anywhere and spend any money. It was a gloriously dry and sunny day, absolutely perfect for being outdoors.

greenhouse1Mr S cut all the lawns and put the new greenhouse staging together that I bought on Saturday from Wilkinson’s. It was an absolute bargain at £5. I prepared the greenhouse and did some clearing and weeding of the veg beds, including digging up the last of the leeks. I got a few courgette plants in (mine are only just germinating but these were from a neighbour), some mint, celeriac and some everlasting spinach. I also sowed broccoli, carrots, various flowers and planted the tomato plants – again from Mr Shoestring’s lovely neighbour – into the greenhouse. I could list everything in the garden as individual projects for the sake of the 52 projects challenge, then I would have achieved all 52 by now! The garden is an on-going project!

I wanted it done as on Tuesday morning I start decorating the hall. Now that will be a project.

What is your piece of paradise? Do you love where you live?

 

Don’t waste the bread ends!!

Take the leftover veggies...

Take the leftover veggies…

I had a super productive day yesterday. I cleaned the whole house, took DD3 to get her hair cut in town (we found a great little place that charges £10 for a cut and blow dry, and they were excellent), had a quick whizz around the charity shops and, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, I made chicken stock then used it to make Shoestring Cottage leftover veggie soup. This was delicious. I used some fresh veg – some sad looking celery, leeks from the garden and some carrots – but it mostly consisted of bits and pieces of mashed potato with an assortment of vegetables such as runner beans, peas, carrots and cabbage. I often cook too much, so I put the leftovers in old ice cream tubs in the freezer for this very purpose. I stuck a few lentils in too to thicken it up and it went down a treat. This should last us for lunch today and tomorrow as well.

...and make them into tasty soup!

…and make them into tasty soup!

Whilst I was on a roll I used up the ends of the bread and made some breadcrumbs in the food processor. These are great for stretching bolognese type sauces, for nut roasts and meatloaf, and for coating meat and fish. If I wanted them to be crisp I would  bake them in the oven for 10 minutes or so, but for now they are just in a big bag in the freezer. I don’t understand why anybody would buy breadcrumbs – certainly not the strange orange variety you often find in the shops. If you have a food processor they take literally seconds to make.

Stick the ends of the bread in the food processor...

Stick the ends of the bread in the food processor…

...and Bob's your uncle!

…and Bob’s your uncle!

Chick Pea Burgers and Super Cheap Veggie Soup

chick pea burgers 1It being Sod’s Law and a Saturday, I did of course wake up at 5.30 am, so no lie in for me. The up side of being a naturally early riser is that I am quite productive in the mornings. The down side is that I will be fast asleep on Mr Shoestring’s shoulder by about 9 pm … I am nothing if not entertaining!

I need to keep everything as cheap as possible this month as I have had a couple of unexpected bills. So I am planning to eat from the freezer and store cupboard as much as I can over the next few days. This means more veggie meals, which I love but everyone else will doubtless compain about. They will have to cope!

The first recipe in my store cupboard blitz is for these tasty little chick pea burgers. They are cheap, healthy and quick (as well as being vegetarian, vegan and excellent if you are on a low GI diet).

For 10-12 small burgers you will need:

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
Large handful of fresh coriander if you have it – failing that parsley is good too
2 tbsp plain flour
Salt and pepper to taste

chick pea burgers 2Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until mostly smooth, although a few lumps of chick pea is nice. Put a little flour on a chopping board and shape the mixture into about 12 little patties. Cover and place in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill. When you are ready to cook them, heat some oil in a frying pan and cook them for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. They are nice with some chilli jam on the side.

Since I was having a clear out, I pulled two chicken carcasses out of the freezer and made them into stock with 3 celery sticks, a large carrot, an onion, 3 bayleaves and 6 peppercorns. This is currently simmering away and I will drain it and use it for soup for lunch. I have saved bits and pieces of leftover cooked veg in the freezer, so that is defrosting, and I will add some onion, celery, carrots, pearl barley and whatever else I can find to make a good veggie soup.

So a good start to my mega cheap week!